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Return to spiritual and traditional knowledge leads Cooks health summit

31 May 2018

Posted in: Pacific Radio News,

By Lisa Williams-Lahari -

Lifestyle diseases costing Cook Islanders and the New Zealand health system millions of dollars annually, are preventable in 80 out of every 100 cases.

New Zealand-based Cook Islands surgeon Dr Kiki Maoate says in 20 percent of cases, the diseases and conditions affecting Cook Islanders are hereditary.

She says for the other 80 percent of Cook Islanders who seek healthcare, the conditions which take them to doctors are entirely preventable.

Maoate made the comments as prevention and knowledge of the diseases affecting Pacific peoples came under the spotlight today at the Cook Islands Turama 2020 Vision Health Summit in Auckland.

Dr Joseph Williams. Photo/ PRN.

The summit, opened with a formal keynote from Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito William Sio, was introduced more than a decade ago by Maoate and former Cook Islands Minister of Health Dr Joseph Williams.

It provides an open forum for debating the issues shaping the future of health amongst Cook Islanders in New Zealand and the homeland. 

Speaking of happenings in the homeland, Cook Islands traditional medicine and natural treatments are making a comeback, says visiting speaker 73-year-old Emile Kairua.  

The summit agenda items, from physical to mental illness, highlighted the returning popularity of traditional medicines to treat conditions from asthma, to burns and the big one, obesity-related illness.

Kairua says his knowledge of traditional medicine was passed to him from his mother.

He says a diet high in natural foods and low in imported products helps keep him playing tennis, soccer and golf.

Visiting from her new posting in the Cook Islands after more than two decades in New Zealand health, Secretary for Health Dr Aumea Herman rejoined her former health colleagues for the Turama summit.

The summit also focus on finding common ground between traditional and spiritual healing and the science of medicine was a topical debate for many.

"I think traditional medicine has always been part of us and our life and our culture," says Herman. "And while we have really taken on western medicine and learnt so much, what we haven't done well in terms of capacity training, is passing on the traditional knowledge through the generations. 

"What we have to do now is incorporate both of them [western medicine and traditional knowledge] so that we can get the best for our people."

Tags: Cook Islands,